A PROPHET *****
The Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes this (past) year, and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the coming Oscars, A PROPHET is the best prison movie I’ve ever seen. A supremely assured piece of filmmaking by director Jacques Audiard, this epic and violent film stars Tahar Rahim in a breath-taking, sure-to-be career-launching role as Malik, a nineteen year-old career criminal who’s entering the Big House (rather than Juvenile Detention) for the first time. A mix of Muslim and Corsican, and incredibly green and naïve, Malik doesn’t fit in at all – but that could be his secret weapon. Watching his rise is thrilling from start to finish; it’s kind of like The Godfather set in a prison. Not to be missed – but be warned, there is graphic, brutal violence.
THE HURT LOCKER *****
Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful film is the first to have really engaged critics and audiences alike on the Iraq War, and there’s a reason – it is practically perfect filmmaking. Plotwise very simple – essentially a series of incidents – this is actually a hugely interesting character study of a man suffering from an unusual element of war – that of being addicted to it. Jeremy Renner, unknown to me before, gives an astounding performance as a bomb-disposal expert who gets off on the unbearable tension of his job. Not violent – and not, as some would suggest, an “action movie” – this is thought-provoking, visceral cinema at its best. It and A PROPHET are two of a kind – thrilling, entertaining movies set in places you don’t want to be, but are incredibly stimulated to visit.
Bill Mahar’s anti-religious screed may not reach the heights of Michael Moore or Sacha Baron Cohen, but is nonetheless a heartfelt and very funny, and angry, essay in praise of atheism. The biggest problem may be that it will simply preach to the converted, but to the converted it is definitely a lot of fun.
THE INFORMANT! ****
Matt Damon in his best-ever role in Steven Soderburgh’s unclassifiable picture; never truly a comedy, drama or biopic, it tells the true story of Mark Whittaker, whose whistle-blowing on his own corn company in early-90s USA confounds all concepts of human motivation. A truly original and always entertaining film.